London – Comparing Tottenham Hotspur winger Gareth Bale to the world's best players is way over the top, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes.
Even though the 23-year-old has made huge strides since Wenger first watched him as a teenager at Southampton, the Frenchman says talk of Bale in the same breath as Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo is premature.
Bale enhanced his reputation with two superb free-kicks as Tottenham beat Lyon 2-1 in the Europa League at White Hart Lane on Thursday and the Wales international has now scored seven goals in his last five matches for club and country.
But Wenger, who signed Theo Walcott as a 16-year-old from Southampton in 2005 when he might have opted for Bale, said he still had a lot to prove at the highest level.
“Bale has the potential to develop and become the players that you compare him to,” he said.
“However, Messi has won two or three Champions League, a few championships, scored 95 goals in a year, so let's not go too quick. You are always very quick here, but let's slow down a little bit.”
And Wenger insisted he had no qualms over the decisions he'd made regarding the then academy duo at south coast club Southampton.
“It was Walcott and Bale, and we were at some stage on (about) taking the two if possible, but we could get Walcott and I am very happy we got him,” he said.
“If I tell you the number of players we did not sign who we should have signed, you would be amazed, but it is the same for every single club, you miss players,” Wenger added. – Sapa-AFP